As part of its August bulletin, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute asks: "Is there room for teaching and research in a postdoc experience?" According to HHMI's Andrea Widener, "few postdocs are getting teaching experience now," though those who desire such training can find an increasing number of opportunities. These, she says, "range from formal teaching postdocs to programs that expose postdocs to teaching while they work in a traditional research position." However, Widener adds, learning to teach while in the midst of a research-centric postdoc has its challenges. "Many faculty discourage graduate students or postdocs from going after teaching experiences because they fear that time away from the lab will mean fewer publications — and more difficulty getting a job," she says. Yale Univeristy's Jo Handelsman — who is also an HHMI professor — tells Widener that for "people [who] want to go into academic positions, a pure teaching postdoc can be fatal." Plus, Handelsman adds, even those institutions that tend to be less research-intensive still value faculty candidates who have experience in strong research programs. Indeed, Widener spoke with two researchers who both "enjoyed formal teaching postdocs," but later ended up taking on a "second postdoc to get the research experience they'd need to get a good faculty position."
Room for Both?
Jul 29, 2011